How to measure the impact of offline media

Mar 4, 2024

Introduction

Offline advertising—-like billboards, TV, and radio ads—is alive and well. US marketers spent $203B on offline media in 2022, just slightly less than the $244B spent on digital media.

And yet, many marketers don’t use offline advertising because it seems difficult to measure. They believe that they can’t place these campaigns in front of their exact target audience in real-time and monitor results as quickly as they can with digital marketing, so they’re hesitant to invest in offline media. 

The marketers spending billions on offline media aren’t wasting their money. They’ve just figured out how to measure this type of marketing properly (hint: the answer isn’t using QR codes, landing pages, and discount codes). 

In this article, we’ll break down Paramark’s approach to measuring offline media. We’ll also explain why this reporting is so challenging in the first place.

What makes measuring offline media difficult?

Unlike online media, offline advertising doesn’t have built-in tracking methods for measuring audience engagement in real time. Monitoring out-of-home media is especially challenging because that type of offline advertising has such a broad potential audience. While some companies use QR and discount codes to track offline media, these methods are unreliable since many shoppers ignore or forget these codes. 

As you’ll see later, the perceived limitations listed below shouldn’t hold you back from investing in offline media.

Offline media isn’t clickable

When brands publish digital ads, they can use analytics tools like GA4 to track customers who engaged with the promotion and then visited their website. These analytics platforms use website pixels and cookies to monitor individuals’ click paths.

Offline media isn’t compatible with this monitoring technology because it isn’t clickable. Say, for example, a company releases a billboard promotion. Potential customers engage with the ad by passing it on the highway. But after that happens, the business has no idea which drivers end up making a purchase, making it hard to draw a link between engagement with the promotion and eventual sales.   

Consumers don’t reliably use traditional offline tracking methods

Many marketers will tell you that unique codes and URLs are the best way to track offline advertising. A business might create a podcast ad with a special discount code for listeners or send a direct mail promotion with a unique QR code. 

We don’t endorse these methods because they don’t align with typical consumer behavior. How many shoppers, for example, are really going to remember a discount code they hear in a podcast ad? How often will they actually scan the QR code on a postcard? Many shoppers don’t use offline tracking elements, so marketers consistently underestimate the reach of their offline ads.

Out-of-home offline media isn’t one-to-one

Out-of-home (OOH) media refers to offline advertising that is placed in public spaces, often to generate brand awareness and capture down funnel conversions eventually. Examples include billboards, ads on buses, and posters in airports. 

It’s hard to know exactly how many people out-of-home advertising reaches and who it reaches because this media lives in public. Traditionally, an OOH media provider will estimate impressions based on average foot and car traffic figures—but this reporting is just an estimate. It doesn’t precisely capture impressions and engagement at the individual level. 

There are modern OOH advertising providers, like AdQuick, that can track individual impressions based on mobile ID location data. We’ll publish a detailed post soon on this topic, so stay tuned!

How do I measure offline marketing performance?

Just like we measure online media, we recommend using a combination of marketing mix modeling (MMM) and incrementality testing to gauge how well your offline channels are performing. To get the most out of these measurement methods, first choose an offline advertising partner that gathers reliable impressions data. From there, find a measurement partner that can help you create a marketing mix model to capture your offline spend and develop incrementality tests to measure your offline media’s efficacy.

Collect impressions data from your offline media provider 

Measuring offline marketing with MMM and incrementality testing depends on accurate impressions data. Any offline advertising vendor should provide impressions reporting, but providers use different methods. Some will use average foot and car traffic data, while others are developing methodologies to capture more accurate impressions.  

For example, the OOH advertising company Clear Channel Outdoor developed its RADAR method to measure their customers’ campaigns. This company pulls IP addresses, internet browsing, and location data from individuals’ mobile devices to help their clients understand who their ads are reaching. Our recommendation is to leverage platforms like AdQuick that help you access this and much more from their network of partners and proprietary data. This data helps you plan your offline media strategy, execute your buys, and analyze the post campaign performance.

Estimate your offline ads’ cost-effectiveness with marketing mix modeling

Marketing mix modeling is a way to measure the correlation between investments and performance using statistical analysis.  This correlation data allows marketers to estimate the impact of their spend on each channel. 

In the case of offline media, we recommend tracking three metrics with MMM: 

  • Daily impressions: the amount of people seeing your offline ad on a day-to-day basis. 

  • Daily cost: the amount of money needed to show your offline media each day. 

  • Location: where your offline advertisement is being shown. 

With these three metrics plugged into MMM, marketers can estimate how well their offline ad spend is leading to impressions and whether location impacts this performance at all. The three metrics needed for this analysis will all come from whatever offline advertising platform your business uses.

Verify your offline media performance with incrementality testing

MMM is a starting point for evaluating offline advertising because it’s just an estimation of causality. Use your MMM data to form a hypothesis about which offline channels are the most cost-effective sources of impressions, and verify this informed guess with an experiment (aka, incrementality testing). 

Say, for example, your MMM shows that billboard ads in California generate plenty of impressions at a relatively low cost. You could run a test where you show a billboard ad in California but not New York over a set time frame. Once the period ends, your marketing team could measure the difference in impressions and sales between the two locations to gauge the impact of California billboards. 

The low-attention advantage of offline media

According to Nielsen, 81% of U.S. residents age 16 or older surveyed have noticed a roadside bulletin, digital bulletin or poster in the past month.

As you’re considering investing in offline media, remember that people are typically in a more more relaxed state of mind when viewing these ads—like watching TV, radio, and billboard promotions, and more open to being entertained. Take advantage of this behavior with emotional, entertaining ads that paint your brand positively. Your customers don’t want to overthink on offline channels, so chances are they’ll be open to hearing about your brand.


Here at Paramark, we help businesses gauge their marketing performance—whether it’s offline or online—with a combination of MMM and incrementality testing. To explore how this measurement methodology can benefit your business, please reach out for a free call.

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